International Travel Safety

HUB International offers the following tips for individuals who are traveling internationally:

  • Learn as much as you can about the country you are visiting before you leave. You should be aware of the political and cultural climate, health/safety risks, active criminal and terrorist groups, and their propensity for kidnap and extortion. There are a number of travel security resources available, some of which provide ongoing travel alerts.
  • Depending on your destination and your medical condition, you may want to plan for how you will cover the substantial expenses associated with hospitalization and/or medical evacuation. There are a number of travel insurance and emergency evacuation plans that provide cost effective coverage.
  • Carry your medications in the original containers with copies of the original prescriptions.
  •  Remove all personal information from luggage tags. Use a small, discreet tag that includes your employer name and business address. If your luggage is lost, you can reclaim it with a business card and photo identification.
  • Do not honor requests to transport letters or packages from people you don’t know, no matter how innocent they appear.
  • Keep your cash and high value items in the hotel safe.
  • Leave expensive jewelry at home. The majority of insurance claims placed by individuals while traveling are related to jewelry losses. In many cases, these losses resulted from individuals accidentally leaving their valuables behind.
  • Book a hotel room between the third and sixth floors. A room below the third floor can pose a potential security concern. A room on the seventh floor or higher makes fire rescue and evacuation more difficult.
  • Do not discuss your travel plans with hotel staff members or reveal your personal information to casual acquaintances.
  • When you leave your hotel for the day, secure your luggage with plastic luggage ties. Inexpensive and easy to use, these ties can keep your personal items safe from anyone who comes into your room.
  • Never leave your laptop unattended. In light of the increasing risk of identity theft, you should travel only with the data that you absolutely need. If you are traveling for business, have your employer install a highly encrypted program on your laptop to reduce the risk of hacking.
  • Exercise caution in using ATMs. Avoid alerting bystanders that you may be carrying a large sum of cash. ATM transactions should only be done during the day, and only inside a financial institution. Avoid using ATMs that are located on the street.


London - Day 10

Day 10 was going to be a relaxing day, maybe some shopping and lunch, nothing too crazy the day before we head home.  I had wanted to see Westminster Abbey and Buckingham Palace, so we hopped on the tube and headed towards what we thought was Westminster Abbey.  Well it turned out we were going towards Westminster Cathedral, still a a great old building, but not what I had expected.

We saw this:

Instead of this, oh well..

Next stop Buckingham Palace and a walk through the park and Bond Street for a bit of shopping.  The Palace is big and imposing, I wondered if the Queen was peeking out a window looking down at all the tourists.

Bond Street is split into two sections, Old Bond Street and New Bond Street, both are lined with great shopping, many of the designer stores are located on this street.

After our day of walking we were ready to head back to the hotel for afternoon tea and packing, home tomorrow!

London - Day 9

First - dinner at Hakkasan last night was fantastic.  The restaurant is in the basement of a building down a dead end street, very small entry with a door monitor making sure anyone entering has a reservation.  Down a long flight of stairs and you enter into a huge space, totally unexpected, and very modern and contemporary.  The food was Chinese, but with a modern flare, and very very tasty.



Today we started our day at the Natural History Museum.  An huge complex of buildings right next to the Science Museum and The Victoria and Albert Museum.  The museum is separated into 4 zones, the Red Zone(Earth Lab), the Blue Zone(Dinosaurs, Reptiles and Mammals), the Green Zone(Birds, Fossils and Minerals) and the Orange Zone(the new Darwin Center).  We spent most of our time in the Minerals and Earth History sections, spending a brief amount of time in the fossils and mammals section.  You could spend a full day at the museum and still not see everything.  Admission is free except for the new Darwin Center exhibit, and be prepared for a lot of school aged children.

Our next stop was the Tate Modern to see the Pop Life art exhibit.  We are both fans of Pop art by artists like Warhol and Haring so we were excited to see the exhibit.  The building housing the Tate is quite impressive.
The galleries are housed in the former Bankside Power Station, which was originally designed by Sir Giles Gilbert Scott, the architect of Battersea Power Station, and built in two stages between 1947 and 1963. The power station closed in 1981. The building was converted by architects Herzog & de Meuron and contractors Carillion, after which it stood at 99m tall. The history of the site as well as information about the conversion was the basis for a 2008 documentary Architects Herzog and de Meuron: Alchemy of Building -  Tate Modern.
There were quite a few pieces by Warhol and a lot of pieces from his magazine Interview.  Keith Haring's Pop Shop from Manhattan was duplicated but there weren't many of his pieces of art.  We were not impressed with the rest of the exhibit, just not our taste.

When we arrived in London at our hotel we asked the concierge to try and find us tickets to see the Priscilla Queen of the Desert musical based on the movie of the same name.  I had heard it was a great production and seats were hard to find.  Because Clark has a hard time bending one knee we can only sit on the right-hand side aisle, an impossible task for the concierge, but I thought we would try.  I was very excited when I heard they were able to get us tickets in row 5 on the aisle, I'm not sure how he did it but I was very happy.  The show was fantastic, great songs, great costumes and sets, we had a great time.

Link to video clip.




London - Day 8

Let's start with the evening of Day 7.  How can so many people fit in one place at one time?  Soho was packed wall to wall last night with people dining, going to the theater, drinking and bar hopping, hanging out at coffee shops, and just walking the streets.  Which were filled from one side to the other, I don't know how anyone could possibly have driven the streets, it was very exciting and full of energy.  We had some great Sushi and Tempura at a little place called Kyoto.  It was packed and loud, but the food was very authentic and fresh.

Day 8 started with an awesome breakfast at the Soho Hotel, this place really knows how to do things, the fresh fruit they had laid out in the morning was spectacular, and they had freshly made granola and fresh squeezed smoothies.

I have to comment that the British and Irish both seem to have a fondness for toast.  Every morning we get asked before we have even sat down if we want toast, and well we aren't big toast eaters, and this seems to bring much distress to our servers.

The hotel is very odd, down a small alley, no markings with the hotel name, small drop-off zone and lobby.  The paparazzi were out front when we arrived, I am sure they were disappointed that we were not so famous.  I'm told it's popular with the music and movies stars, although we haven't seen anyone famous yet.

After breakfast we went to the British Museum, just a short walk from the hotel.  It's amazing to see everything the British have plundered, I mean collected, over the last several hundred years.  Want to see the statuary that decorated the Parthenon, don't go to Athens, it's here.  How about the Rosetta stone, not in Egypt, as were, it seemed, every mummy, statue of a Pharaoh or god, and anything else of importance in Egyptian history.  I guess they took everything that wasn't nailed down, and if it was they just used dynamite to free it up.  If I were an Egyptian I'd be angry.


They even moved entire Greek and Syrian temples, it was just amazing how they could move such huge pieces.

The museum was having a special exhibition on the life of Montezuma (or more appropriately Moctezuma), the last Aztec emperor before the Spanish arrived. It was a great exhibit, well worth the entry cost.

After the museum we headed to the underground, one thing Clark and I love to do when traveling is to use the local subway system to get around.  So far the London Underground has been easy to use and navigate.  I bought a special iPhone application for the subway system and has really helped plan our routes.

Our next stop was the area around the Parliament buildings, we saw Big Ben, Parliament, and then took a ride on the London Eye.  If there is a long line to ride the Eye buy a Fast Track ticket, it costs a few more Pounds, but we were on the ride in just a few minutes, and it seemed like they didn't put as many passengers in the Fast Track capsules.  We had great views over all of London, it was very cool.


After our ride we headed back into Soho for lunch.  We ate at Cafe Boheme in Soho, a nice French Bistro, very casual, great food and service.  Then back to the hotel for a spot of tea and a nap before we head out later tonight for dinner.  Based on a great recommendation from Joanna Heathcote we are going to a Chinese restaurant named Hakkassan, it is supposed to be out of this world good!


Ireland - Day 7

Today we were supposed to drive from Killarney to Cong for our stay at Ashford Castle.  Last night Clark and I were sitting in our hotel room and he blurted out, "let's go to London"!  That's when the travel consultant in me kicked in.  Within in a few minutes I had booked us a hotel at a sold out location using my Virtuoso contacts, booked airfare between Cork and London, changed our rental at Hertz so we could drop off our car in Cork instead of Dublin, arranged transportation in London and canceled our stay at Ashford Castle and our one night at the airport in London.  These are the things a professional travel consultant can do for you at the spur of the moment.

I want to say thanks to Joanne Heathcote at JH Hotels for finding us a room at a great hotel, the Soho Hotel when the hotel was booked to near capacity.  I also want to mention that Hertz Ireland has been a great car rental company to work with.  Great staff, good cars, no hassles.  When I called to ask about changing my return city the response was, no problem, just return it with a full tank.  I know this might be unique to Ireland, small island country, easy to move vehicles around, but it was still refreshing.

So now we get to end our trip with a little bit of city excitement.  Of course I didn't pack for London so it means we get to do a little bit of shopping!  The new musical Priscilla Queen of the Desert is playing, so hopefully we can get tickets.

I'm blogging from the airport in Cork, it's a new facility, very nice, lots of European connections, I would highly recommend flying out of Cork if you are continuing on to another European city.

Ireland - Day 6

 Today we drove to Cork, Ireland's second city, or first, depending on who you talk to.  It sounds like there is a big rivalry between Dublin and Cork.

We didn't have much time to spend in the city, and it was raining very hard with gale force winds.  we walked around the central shopping area, had a great latte at Nosh&Coffee, and then stopped for pizza.

Cork is home to a large university, and you could tell the city had a very young and energetic vibe.

Cork facts:

Cork (Irish: Corcaigh, from corcach meaning "swamp") is the second largest city in the Republic of Ireland and the island of Ireland's third most populous city. It is the principal city and administrative centre of County Cork and the largest city in the province of Munster. Cork has a population of 119,143, while the addition of the suburban areas contained the county brings the total to 190,384. Metropolitan Cork has a population of approximately 274,000, while the Greater Cork area is about 380,000.

Cork has a reputation for rebelliousness dating back to the town's support of the English Pretender Perkin Warbeck in 1491 following the Wars of the Roses. As a result, County Cork has earned the nickname of "the Rebel County", while Corkonians often refer to the city as the "real capital of Ireland", and themselves as the "Rebels".

The city is built on the River Lee which divides into two channels at the western end of the city. The city centre is located on the island created by the channels. At the eastern end of the city centre they converge; and the Lee flows around Lough Mahon to Cork Harbour, the world's second largest natural harbour after Sydney Harbour in Australia. The city is a major Irish seaport; there are quays and docks along the banks of the Lee on the city's east side.


Ireland - Day 5

Today we drove the Ring of Kerry and Valentia Island.

The Ring of Kerry (Irish: An Mhór Chuaird) is a tourist trail in County Kerry, south-western Ireland. The route covers the 170 km circular road, starting from Killarney, heading around the Iveragh Peninsula and passing through Kenmare, Sneem, Waterville, Cahersiveen and Killorglin.

Popular points include Muckross House (near Killarney), Staigue stone fort and Derrynane House, home of Daniel O'Connell. Just south of Killarney, Ross Castle, Lough Leane, and Ladies View (a panoramic viewpoint), all located within Killarney National Park, are major attractions located along the Ring.

A more complete list of major attractions along the Ring of Kerry includes: Gap of Dunloe, Bog Village, Rossbeigh Beach, Cahersiveen Heritage Centre, Derrynane House, Skellig Experience, Staigue Fort, Kenmare Lace, Moll's Gap, Ladies View, Torc Waterfall, Muckross House, The Blue Pool, Ross Castle, Ogham Stones, St Mary’s Cathedral, Muckross Abbey, Franciscan Friary, Kellegy Church, O’Connell Memorial Church, Sneem Church and Cemetery, Skellig Michael, Beehive Cells and the Stone Pillars marking an important grave.

The scenery is just spectacular, and the weather was perfect for the drive.


We stopped at Ballycarberry Castle:

And a nearby fort, which is a stone circle used as a residence by chieftains:

We were chased off the property by a herd of marauding cattle:

On Valentia Island we went to vist a tetrapod walkway site preserved in the stone.
The site is of international importance, being well dated at older than 385 million years; the oldest in situ tetrapod trackway in the world. About 200 prints represent the passage of one or more tetrapods, primitive four legged vertebrates, across the soft sediment of a large river floodplain in Devonian times. It is a key record of the important evolutionary step of vertebrates leaving aquatic environments and breathing air on land. This site has the scope to fire people's understanding and appreciation of geology that ranks with the best the world has to offer. 

This is an example of a two lane road on the island:

 It was a great trip, but it definitely took the whole day to drive the ring and visit all the sites.  We stopped in Portmagee and ate at the Morrings.


Ireland - Day 4

Learning to drive again...

Picked up our rental car at Hertz today for the drive between Dublin and Killarney.  I had rented a smallish car because the roads are notoriously narrow.  I'm sure the Hertz counter rep thought he was doing us a favor when he upgraded us to a HUGE Land Rover, but as I soon found out we should have stayed with the smaller car.

I'm not sure if I was more worried about driving on the opposite side or the small roads.  Luckily the first part of our trip was on motorways, so the roads were ok and I adapted to the opposite side drive fairly easily.  Clark did shout out a couple times that I was riding the edge of the road on the left, and I almost took out one sign, but no other issues.  The real fun started when we got off the motorway onto the smaller roads.  They are so narrow, they leave you no margin for error, and the speed limit is 100 kmph, I don't see how this is possible!  It some cases the road just isn't wide enough for two cars to pass, one has to stop and pull off to the side to let the other pass.  And when a large truck goes by, well lets just say I've closed my eyes and held my breath a few times!

The drive to Killarney was scenic.  we stopped at a nice Japenese Garden about an hour out of Dublin in Kildare, it's also the home of the Ireland Stud Farm, odd combination.


Outside of Kanturk we came across a large castle, we were the only ones visiting.

Kanturk Castle, also known as The Old Court, is situated one mile south of Kanturk town, the capital of the ancient Barony of Duhallow.  The Castle was built for MacDonogh MacCarthy, Lord of Duhallow.  The MacCarthys of Duhallow descended from Dermod, the third son of Cormac Fionn MacCarthy Mór (1170-1242), King of Desmond.  The MacDonogh MacCarthys were overlords of Duhallow.  There were three sub-chiefs to MacDonogh.  These were The MacAuliffe, The O'Callaghan, and The O'Keeffe.

The Castle was probably started at the end of the sixteenth century.  On the Map of Ireland made by John Norden between 1609 and 1611, there is a castle shown at "Cantork" (Kanturk) which is almost six English miles west of "Castle Magnere" and 10 English miles south-west of Liscarroll Castle.  Kanturk Castle combines a number of different architectural styles, making it difficult to pinpoint a specific date for its construction.  However, it was normal for a major work such as this to span several years, and the date of completion/suspension of work was probably close to 1618.


Killarney is larger than I had expected, and much more touristy.  Lots of shops and restaurants and hotels.  The Killarney Park Hotel is situation close to downtown, but far enough away from the hustle and bustle.


Ireland - Day 3

Well the weather took a turn for the worse today, very hard rain this morning.

Today we started our day at the Dublin City Gallery, the Hugh Lane.  A small museum with a nice collection of modern contemporary Irish artists.  The most interesting thing to see in the museum isn't really a piece of art, it's Francis Bacon's art studio preserved just as it was when he died in 1992.  The room was moved intact from London to the museum in Dublin.  The room is a disaster, paint cans and brushes, newspapers, boxes and junk line the walls and cover the floor.  There is just a small space for the artist to stand and paint, it's a wonder how he ws able to create anything out of this space.


We then drove south out of Dublin along the sea (not an ocean as I was corrected) and had lunch at a great seafood restaurant in Sandycove called Cavistons, close to the neighborhood where Bono, Enya and Van Morrison all live.  The seafood was fantastic.  Sandycove is a quaint little town, not much to see or do but worth a stop for a great meal.  Reservations are a must, they were turning people away while we were there, it is a small restaurant, only 8 tables.

After lunch we drove into the countryside to Powerscourt Estate.  Originally a 13th century castle, it has been built on and remodeled over time.   The gardens are a big tourist attraction and worth an afternoon visit.  There is also a golf course, restaurant, shops, and close by a new Ritz-Carlton hotel.

 Tomorrow we hit the road, driving from Dublin south to Killarney.  And if the roads are like anything we drove on today I have to say I'm a little worried.  Very narrow!


Ireland - Day 2

Definition of Customer Service - see Four Seasons Dublin..

I am so impressed with the customer service I have received here at the Four Seasons Hotel in Dublin.  I casually mentioned last night to the concierge that I had a missing bag.  He insisted that I give him the tracking number from the airline and he and his colleagues then called the airline every hour last night until my bag was found and delivered to my room.  Disaster averted!

This is why Four Seasons Hotels are preferred partners of Virtuoso and why I can always guarantee every client of mine will be treated in exactly the same way every time they visit a Four Seasons Hotel around the world.

Day 2 - Highlights:

We visited Trinity College today and viewed the Book of Kells.


The Book of Kells  is celebrated for its lavish decoration. The manuscript contains the four Gospels in Latin based on a Vulgate text, written on vellum (prepared calfskin), in a bold and expert version of the script known as "insular majuscule".

The place of origin of the Book of Kells is generally attributed to the scriptorium of the monastery founded around 561 by St Colum Cille on Iona, an island off the west coast of Scotland.  In 806, following a Viking raid on the island which left 68 of the community dead, the Columban monks took refuge in a new monastery at Kells, County Meath. It must have been close to the year 800 that the Book of Kells was written, although there is no way of knowing if the book was produced wholly at Iona or at Kells, or partially at each location.

It has been on display in the Old Library at Trinity College Dublin from the mid 19th century, and attracts over 500,000 visitors a year. Since 1953 it has been bound in four volumes. Two volumes are on public view, one opened to display a major decorated page, and one to show two pages of script. The volumes are changed at regular intervals.

We then visited St Patrick's Cathedral.

Built in honor of Ireland’s patron saint, Saint Patrick’s Cathedral stands adjacent to the famous well where tradition has it Saint Patrick baptized converts on his visit to Dublin.

A church was built on this site in 1191 and in 1991 we celebrated 800 years of worship. The present building dates from 1220. The Cathedral is today the National Cathedral for the Church of Ireland (Anglican).

Jonathan Swift of "Gulliver" fame was dean of and is buried in the cathedral.


We then had lunch outside of Dublin at Howth in a very interesting pub called the Bloody Stream.  Apparently a battle with the Normans was fought here in the 1100's, and well you can imagine how the place got its name.

History of The Bloody Stream

On the 10th of August 1177, during the 2nd Norman Invasion of Ireland, Sir John de Courcy’s expedition arrived off Howth. Unable to leave his ship, the command was taken over by Sir Almeric Tristram, said to be a descendant of Sir Tristram, a knight of King Arthur’s Round Table. A great battle ensued against the Danes, who were then in occupation on Evora Bridge, over a stream; afterwards known as the Bloody Stream. During the construction of this public house, we found that the Bloody Stream runs directly under these premises. Having fought a constant battle with the stream flooding the bar, we decided to make peace with it, hence the name, The Bloody Stream.

Tonight we are going to have Indian food at a restaurant called Jaipur.  We love Indian food and any time we travel to a city with a large Indian community we always find a great authentic meal.  This is something to remember when you are traveling in Europe.  So many European powers had colonial outposts during the 19th and 20th centuries you will inevitability find great ethnic cuisine representing those countries, like Indian in England and Vietnamese in France.